Episode 200: 10 Ways to Leverage LinkedIn and Your Alumni for Sales
Is your college network filled with your target prospects? Or was a former schoolmate or classmate of yours now working at a company you want to sell your solutions to? Discover how to make all those relationships you made and rapport you’ve built in college help your sales efforts today by tuning on this episode of the Making Sales Social podcast.
Tune in as the LinkedIn Sherpa, Bob Woods, and co-host, LinkedIn Whisperer, Brynne Tillman shares 10 Ways to Leverage LinkedIn and Your Alumni for Sales. Learn how to hack the free LinkedIn search filters to find alumni connections to your target clients, explore the power of Alumni Groups, how to run an effective referral program exclusive to your college peers, and more!
In this episode, we also mentioned a previous episode where we talked about leveraging LinkedIn Alumni Page for sales. We’ve created an eBook version for a more easy consumption. You can Download it now!
Bob Woods 00:00
Welcome to Making Sales Social Live, brought to you by Social Sales Link. I’m Bob Woods, the LinkedIn Sherpa, and I’m joined by a fellow LinkedIn and Social Selling Professional, also known as the LinkedIn whisperer, Brynne Tillman. Sup, Brynne.
Brynne Tillman 00:14
Bob Woods, how are you, my friend?
Bob Woods 00:15
Doing good. Doing very, very good. Thank you very much.
Welcome to Making Sales Social Live, as we share LinkedIn, and Social Selling Training Strategies and Tips that will have an immediate impact on your business. Join Brynne Tillman, and me, Bob Woods every week, Making Sales Social Live! This is the recorded version of our weekly Making Sales Social Live Show.
Bob Woods 00:44
You’ve probably spent some time in college or university. Whether or not you graduated, it doesn’t really matter, but you’ve likely done that. And even if you haven’t, that’s okay. They might have been very recently that you were there. Or if you’re like me, it was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
So if you’re like me, you might be wondering how to put the time and effort you made into your college career and making all those relationships and everything back then into helping your sales efforts today. So today, we’re going to talk about leveraging LinkedIn and your alumni status for sales.
And this brand is going to go way beyond just using LinkedIn alumni search, which we actually did a show on, I think, a couple of months ago. So that’s actually like a subset of that. If you want to learn specifically how to use LinkedIn alumni search, go back and find that show.
Brynne Tillman 01:40
Okay, sounds good. Well, before we get to this list, one of the things you mentioned, Bob, is that we have a network we’ve built a reputation at in our university with people that we know, but here’s the thing, there’s this really strong connection when you meet someone.
So if you’re overseas and you meet someone from your town, maybe you didn’t know them before, you’re like, “What, there’s an immediate connection,” you even go to lunch with that, right? Same thing with alumni, Right? When you’ve got that great connection with someone, it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to building rapport. It’s fast and fabulous. So Bob, let’s start with number one.
Bob Woods 02:25
Well, actually, before we do that really quick, you just reminded me of a really quick story. Last week, when I was doing a LinkedIn profile for our biggest corporate client, doing a makeover for him, he wanted to make sure that a school that you actually like a lot, Penn State, was prominently featured in his profile precisely because he gets so much business from his Penn State connections.
He said 80% of his business came from Penn State connections. Now that hurts a little bit. You know, Ohio State ban. I’m just kidding. But I mean great for him. He’s really leveraging all of that effectively. So now we’re going to teach you how to hopefully get so many leads and so many deals from your alumni network that you’ll be very well off.
Brynne Tillman 03:17
Yeah, we’ll start with the searches then like talking about using this search feature in the page.
Bob Woods 03:24
Yeah. So I mean, with those you just like any other LinkedIn search, the power is in the filters. So you can filter by the industry, you can filter by their location, you can filter by their job title, you can mash all those up together to really be able to zero in, on the people with whom you want to start conversations.
And it’s just great, especially because, you know, even if you don’t know that person, or if you’re connected by first degree, but you don’t necessarily really know them. And we all have people on our network like that, because of the collegiate connection, you actually have a warmer reason to go in and hopefully start a conversation with that person rather than not having that.
Brynne Tillman 04:11
Yeah, and I love and now if you go to, and by the way, I need to do an equal shout out to Rutgers as well. So you know, we have lots of schools, little schools, big schools, there’s typically something happening. So if they win a game, or maybe they’re in the news or something, you know, that is a lot of fodder to start a conversation, Right?
So there are so many opportunities, and then in the search will just help you to find your ideal prospects that happened to have gone to your alumni. We can also add in other relationship filters as well and you can add in the years. So for example, you know, If 1986-1990, Right? if I wanted to add in my years, I still may not know them.
But we were there at the same time. So there’s so many different ways to use that search and to start a conversation. In fact, some of the other things we’re going to talk about as we go through this will help us to start a conversation.
Bob Woods 05:21
So the next section that we’re going to talk about is joining alumni groups. And I think that this is really important, because there are actually several types of alumni groups. With LinkedIn, I’ve found that neither myself or even my wife are involved with not only are there like national groups, there’s also groups that are divided by industry, there are also groups divided by localities that serve certain localities, as well. So there are several different ways to get into alumni groups that can really help you out.
Brynne Tillman 05:55
Yeah, and you know, they’re pretty simple to find, no, sometimes a college or university may have their groups listed on their page. And we’ll talk about other opportunities that are listed on the page as well. Other times, you just go up to the nine dots at the top that says for business, there’s a group’s button up there.
And when you click on that “Groups button”, you’re able to search in the “Search bar”, just put in your college or university’s name, pull it from the drop-down, and you’ll be able to see so on my college is like six different groups, sunless just for culinary, some that’s like they’re just different groups. So find out the ones that twofold. One, you know, that you relate to but also that your prospects might relate to as well.
Bob Woods 06:48
Absolutely. One 100%. And just Just a really quick tip, if you are involved in a physical group, so in other words, don’t necessarily have a LinkedIn connection. Like, for example, we’ve been trying to get our Ohio State one for my wife involved in LinkedIn, it hasn’t happened yet. But volunteer to set up a group for your local groups.
Brynne Tillman 07:10
That’s brilliant! Brilliant, Right? So I’m just going to break that down. Let’s say you’re Ohio State, in Lexington, Kentucky, and you want a networking group, it’s Ohio State alumni in Lexington, Kentucky, you can own that group. I love that. Now, Grandpa guys, that’s it. Now, if your wife is in a pharmaceutical role, right, so she could actually do pharmaceutical professionals from Ohio State doesn’t have to be located. Right? It could be her industry as well. I love that.
Bob Woods 07:51
Next one, speaking, speaking of being a little entrepreneurial, and startup, related in terms of your thought processes, alumni referral program. So this involves creating a referral program, specifically for your alumni network, where you’re offering incentives for people who refer clients or customers to your business.
You know, that could be discounts exclusive as access rewards, you know the good old, you know, promotion codes, that say, all of that type of stuff can actually work really, really well. And plus, because it’s based on a college or university, there’s like that extra special feeling there, too. That’s another alumnus, alumni, whatever, I always confuse myself with helping out a fellow alumnus, alumni or whatever.
Brynne Tillman 08:43
Yeah, I don’t know, is an alumnus or alumni. But I think that’s good for grammarly search.
Bob Woods 08:48
Brynne Tillman 08:49
Great question on that one. But I love this idea. And now the referral program could go in a few different directions. But what you want to do is you want to take a look at who are your best referral partners generally. So for us, our best referrals are typically sales trainers, or our clients that have gone through this. Right?
So let’s just stick with the sales trainer. So if we went in and we looked at all the sales trainers that went to Ohio State all of a sudden, Right? There’s some synergy and they’re also people we can refer to. So there’s some synergy and some opportunity to connect through the alumni relationship and you’ve targeted the right people. The other thing is you could have a Buckeye discount, right. So it on your website mentioned you’re a Buckeye and whatever it might be right, whatever that is.
Bob Woods 09:45
So yeah, there are so many different ways you can go there. Yeah, absolutely.
Brynne Tillman 09:49
But when you create that connection, and it’s an emotional connection, I went to Johnson and Wales, which is, you know, a culinary hospitality school. It was just in Rhode Island at the time and now they have campuses around the country. And when someone reaches out to me and says, “Hey, I see you went to Johnson wells, I went to this campus in Colorado”.
And I’m like, immediately I’m gonna respond because I have that bond, Right? It just is. And so we want to take advantage of that on both sides. Right? I want to help someone that’s an alumni. But an alumni may want to help me too. So that program is great. The next one I love.
Bob Woods 10:33
You have a question really quickly. To get permission from the university to create subgroups. I don’t think you absolutely have to do that. I mean, it’s always nice to have support. But you know, a lot of times, especially with local groups, they will go through the alumni group to get help and things like that. Normally, alumni groups do have processes and things in place to help out groups that want to be set up like that. I would say it probably doesn’t hurt to reach out. But I don’t think you absolutely have to.
Brynne Tillman 11:09
That is a great question. Yeah. If a question ever comes up like that, the answer is always err on the side of precaution. Right? Like, make sure that you feel comfortable, and that they can come back to you in, you know, a year and say, “Oh, no, no, no, no you gotta take this down”.
After all the work that you put into it. We faced this very early on on LinkedIn, we did a group I can’t remember was LinkedIn brainstorming or some kind of group that was called LinkedIn something and about 10 years ago, maybe 8, I’m not sure. But they came out and said, You can’t use LinkedIn in the name of a group.
And we had, I don’t know, seven or 8000 people in that group that went away completely. Now we have another group that has like 4000. And I stopped, you know, it sucked the wind out of my sail, little brown groups on that in that purchase perspective. But yeah, so that’s actually a really good point. Yeah.
Bob Woods 12:06
Yeah, that’s a really good point, a really good question. Next, we’re moving on to alumni of events. So these are events that can be physical in person, especially for like those local groups. Because obviously, those are meant to be local, or, you know, webinars or even workshops, may give you an excuse to go back to campus, if you really want to do that type of thing.
You know, use those opportunities to network and showcase your expertise, because those are, you know, those are networking meetings, except they’re extra, you know, they should be extra special, because this is a group of people who you already share in affinity.
Brynne Tillman 12:45
Yeah, like, you know, when we were building today’s curriculum out, I obviously, I went to my, my alumni page, and I poked around, I said, you know, “What do I see here?”. And when I look, I mean, they have an enormous amount of events that are coming up. So I could go in, and I could view the event.
And I could actually see who some of the attendees were, it’s pretty cool the amount of information that you can find right from that company page. So for the alumni page, Right? So I just looked at my college, and I clicked on the events page. And that’s it. That’s all.
Now, obviously, Bob’s talking about other ways to do that, you could go on their website and see if there are events there for sure. But from a LinkedIn perspective, this is a great way to click through and see what’s going on. And by the way, if you say you’re attending, you can see all of the other attendees. So it’s their opportunity to engage.
Bob Woods 13:48
100% love that love that. So the next area is the alumni newsletter or blogs, so they all have newsletters, I mean, let’s face it, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their job, Right? So you can actually reach out, reach out and ask to be featured.
You can also create your own newsletter or blog focused on alumni-related content. And you know, obviously, this is a great way to share about your business, your insights into your industry and success stories and all that type of thing. You know, just to keep people engaged, essentially.
Brynne Tillman 14:25
Yeah, and there are two kinds of newsletters, sure, there’s more than two kinds of newsletters, but there’s one that’s going on in the email, and there’s one that goes out on LinkedIn. And on LinkedIn, you can jump in like when I went and I’m doing my research and I’m on my homepage. One of the first things I saw when I would scroll down is that there is a newsletter section that says “I’m subscribed”.
I was already subscribed, I didn’t realize it and then said, you know, university news and announcements. So I clicked through and I looked through this, and right now they only have one that they put out. That’s it. So I’m thinking, Boy, I could reach out and say, “Hey, I love to write a newsletter, I can interview a few people, a few alumni”. Like there’s some opportunity there. There are 123 plus 1000 followers of this newsletter. And they’ve only sent it out once.
So interesting, Bob, that you said they don’t have, I’m sure they have a regular email newsletter, Right? There’s this LinkedIn opportunity where you could reach out and and you can help you can, you know, there’s lots of things that you could do if they have an active LinkedIn newsletter, as Bob said, you know, “What content could you add, That would be helpful to the alumni that would receive it”. So all those fabulous things? What is next?
Bob Woods 15:48
So we talked a lot about in previous episodes, and if you just listened to us in general, we talked a lot about using influencers, to extend your reach to people who, who share the same thoughts, the same ideas, the same interest, but using the internet, but using the influencer as kind of that bridge or conduit to do that same thing, except specifically with your alumni.
So I think all schools have influential alumni to where someone says the name is like, “Oh, yeah, they went to my school, yeah, that’s very cool”. So you know, here, though, because you have that commonality, again, you can reach out to them for, you know, collaboration opportunities, depending on what they do, obviously, things like guest blogging, joint webinars, endorsements, you know, anything along those lines, because they’ll help you expand your reach and credibility among alumni.
Brynne Tillman 16:43
Yeah, I love that. And, you know, finding actual influencers may seem daunting, Right? i How am I going to go out, and I’m going to find the influencers from the company page, but you can actually search for free. So you could go, if I did Penn State and manufacturing like that, that’s what I’m looking for. And I could go ahead and see folks that went to Penn State that are in manufacturing.
And I can see some, you know, I could go into first and second-degree connections, and then I can check to see how active they are. Now, if you have a Sales Navigator, it has been active in the last 30 days. And that is a wonderful way to take a look at alumni in a certain industry that happens to be active, and you can look at their content.
And if you have that synergy, follow them and engage and then come back to Bob’s thoughts around what can you do together? What can you collaborate on? How do you do joint webinars that are promoted as Buckeye manufacturing professionals, I don’t know. Right?
Bob Woods 17:59
Something like that. Yeah. And just make sure that it’s a win win too. Because obviously, you want both the person who you’re who you’re trying to get with, as well as yourself to really benefit from this. And hopefully just, you know, the coming together of two great personalities, and all of the content and insights and value that you have to share should be enough to benefit the audience in general, as well as you and the person that you’re partnering with.
Brynne Tillman 18:25
I love that. All right. Yeah, Next.
Bob Woods 18:29
Mentoring program for alumni. So search alumni, by the years that they graduated, and offer to be their mentor. So by doing this for either current students or recent graduates, it could actually be either, you know, you establish your expertise, you can build real relationships that may or may not pay often, but in the meantime, you’re genuinely helping someone. And that in and of itself, is great, because, again, sharing value sharing expertise, that’s you can never go wrong with doing that.
Brynne Tillman 19:07
Yeah, oh my gosh, I love that one, Bob. you know, and because you can search your university, and then you can put in 2021 to 2023, you’ll get your juniors or seniors that people that graduated, you can even do to 2020 to 2024, I’m not good in with numbers, you got to 2024 and you’re gonna get people that haven’t graduated yet.
And so, for me, when I’m thinking about doing this, I’m going to reach out to marketing majors, all reach out to folks, those couple of things I can help without a lot of time, Right? So we can maybe grant a scholarship for our elearning program or you know, maybe I can you know, I have lots of things that you could do.
I could interview them for a podcast about their greens and you know what they’re studying, there’s so much that we can do. And we’re building relationships now that help them. And in the future, they’re going to be in positions where we probably will want to reach out to them. So it’s a “win, win, win, win”. I love that one.
Bob Woods 20:15
“Win, win, win, win”. Everybody wins. That’s Obviously you get.
Brynne Tillman 20:21
You get a car, and you get a car.
Bob Woods 20:23
Everybody gets a car, except for Oprah. I don’t think she got a car that day. But anyhow. The next one, and this I like, I think it’s kind of genius, alumni spotlight features where you are actually highlighting successful alumni on your LinkedIn profile.
And this could be like in your website, social media, in general, and things like that too. So especially when you can showcase how your products or services have contributed to their success, because you’re kind of getting a twofer at that point. And all that’s just wow, fantastic.
Brynne Tillman 21:01
Beyond love that and it just made me think so we do this, but not with alumni. You can do this at night. I’m gonna put in Wait, if you go to socialsaleslink.com/nominate Now this is not an alumni-generated slash nominate. You can nominate an influencer. And it could be someone from your alumni or not.
But one of the things that we like to do is having an influencer of the week. So you can do an alumni in you know, Buckeye manufacturer influencer of the month, or whatever it is that you want to do. So yeah, I agree, Bob, that’s another good one. I like things, use a post. But you can also use kudos, which is a feature or an In addition, put out a recommendation inside of LinkedIn.
So there are a lot of things that you can do to highlight that person in a Canva image of them saying influencer of the week with you, you know, if you’re allowed to use your college colors, whatever, Right? So lots of wonderful things. I love that spotlight. I think we have two more.
Bob Woods 22:22
We have two more. So number one, this is a little more kind of direct sales. But still it could be valuable for people in your audience as for alumni. And that’s just an alumni exclusive offer where you’ve got exclusive offers or discounts, packages, whatever tailored specifically for your alumni network that you can promote through LinkedIn and other communications channels.
Brynne Tillman 22:48
Yeah, and I know we said discounts. And I know I think when we’re putting this together, I said discounts. But I could also be free to come as my guest, Right? And I think it’s more powerful if you invite them as a guest, then saying, “Hey, you get a discount”. If you choose to buy you can offer that discount. So I love that. Yeah. Last but not least.
Bob Woods 23:11
Alumni testimonials and case studies. So this is where you’re saying, “Hey, you know, we’ve done business together where alumni, Could you possibly consider dropping me a testimonial or taking part in a case study and reverse this as well offer testimonials and case studies to the people in your network as well?” Because you should give very, very much so as well as take I do mean take in quotes because it’s not really taking.
Brynne Tillman 23:44
Yeah, I love that. Yeah, you proactively start the roll the roll balling the ball rolling the ball rolling with that, and I love that. And you know, if you’re going to take advantage of the alumni side of this, just say, as a fellow Buckeye, it was so great to work with. Right? If you’re going to put it out there. If you’re leveraging that alumni name, then, you know, take advantage of it completely. Yeah, so that was a lot of 10.
Bob Woods 24:13
That was a lot of stuff. But you know this, this was a very rich and deep subject. And there are many, many ways that you can use all of this stuff to help you build your business and also, as we’ve demonstrated in several places, help other people out as well. So it’s all fantastic.
Brynne Tillman 24:33
You’re awesome, Bob Woods.
Bob Woods 24:35
We are awesome, Brynne Tillman. So thanks again for joining us on Making Sales Social Live. If you’re with us live on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter right now, we do this every week, so keep an eye out for our live sessions.
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Brynne Tillman 25:18
Social, Bye guys.
Bob Woods 25:21
Have a great day everybody, Bye bye.
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